For any independent artist or record label, Chance The Rapper has embodied what it means to be a DIY musician. From his humble beginnings as “Lil Chano from 79th”.

Chance The Rapper has consistently shown us why growing a fan base from the ground up can be beneficial for any content creator in today’s day and age. The Chicago native has intentionally placed himself above the noise by paving his own way through the music industry.

From ‘Acid Rap’ to ‘Coloring Book’ the rapper has took — full — advantage of the opportunities presented to him while also maintaining his creative independence.

By passing on big pay days — Chance The Rapper has been able to carve out a place in history by providing future musicians with a recipe to follow. What sticks out the most is that the rapper is completely independent.

Chance The Rapper, is:

(1) Not signed to a record label and (2) Gives away all his music for free.

“You do need a manager; you do need somebody to book stuff for you; you do need an assistant; you do need video directors and an engineer and a tour manager and a production manager.

But — when — you sign to label, you get a boss, and that sh-t’s just f-cked up to me.

Why should you have a boss?”

— Chance The Rapper via Complex

How did Chance work a move that wouldn’t have been possible a decade ago?

In an article with Fast Company, he touches on the subject and is asked, if he feels like he’s opening up doors for new artists?

Yeah. I mean, I wouldn’t want to say that I am the person who opened up the door for free music, because music has been in existence long before there was an industry for it.

But it does give the artist much more independence and a better footing in the world.

Technology just naturally moves faster than business, and music and thought and ideas move faster than technology.

We’re in a position to be two steps ahead.

Technology has offered up new found opportunities for those savvy enough to take advantage of what’s being offered for the taking. Backed by purpose and a higher calling, Chance The Rapper has laid out a blueprint for many to follow in his footsteps.

Chance The Rapper is a great example of how “creating value” is much more profitable than “making a dollar”. The premise being if you provide value, opportunity will follow.

Chance explains his methodology to the Wall Street Journal,

“Why charge a dollar for [a song] when that’s not doing anything but making people undervalue music? None of my songs are worth 99 cents.

They’re worth a lot more.”

“In every adversity lies the seed of an equal or greater opportunity. “

Napoleon Hill

While serving a suspension in high school Chance The Rapper released his first official project, “10-Day”. The mixtape was released on Datpiff and quickly became popular through Word-of-Mouth marketing.

Altogether, the high school senior amassed 400,000 downloads, created a buzz locally and on the Internet.

A year later — with his new found success — Chance released his second project and breakthrough mixtape “Acid Rap”. The project garnered more than a million downloads and solidified Chance The Rapper in the minds of Hip Hop fans.

Chance discusses his success with Vanity Fair and why he decided to give away his music for free.

“After I made my second mixtape and gave it away online, my plan was to sign with a label and figure out my music from there.

But after meeting with the three major labels, I realized my strength was being able to offer my best work to people without any limit on it.

I never wanted to sell my music, because I thought putting a price on it put a limit on it and inhibited me from making a connection.”

For his third project — “Coloring Book”. Chance decided to try a new approach. He partnered with Apple Music to have the mixtape streamed exclusively on their platform for two weeks before it was released for general consumption.

The disruption created a conversation where many questioned the exclusivity deal and the authenticity of Chance’s independence. In a tweet, he added clarity to the situation by discussing the terms of the partnership.

Noting that he negotiated a $500,000 fee, plus advertising.

Altogether, “Coloring Book” debuted in the top 10 on the Billboard 200 album chart and became the first streaming-only album to make the list. The highly acclaimed album also was the first streaming-only album to receive a Grammy, according to Fortune.

Since the release of “Coloring Book” sources close to Chance The Rapper says that he has turned down $10 million dollar advances to maintain his independence.

Without a doubt — everyone’s journey — will be different. That is the beauty of the music industry. What matters the most are the decisions and choices you choose to make as a content creator.

At the beginning of your process, one thing to always keep in mind is to pattern yourself after success. Chance’s has laid out a blueprint for all artists to follow and replicate.

Now let’s deep dive into the ‘7 Rules To Growing A Fan Base Like Chance The Rapper.’

1. Figure Out Who YOU Are

It is important to have a clear understanding of who you are as an artist. This includes your brand, visuals, aesthetics and sound. One key to building a fan base is communication, start local and develop a deeper understanding of who you are and what you want to be about.

For Chance The Rapper this started in high school. His first mixtape, “10-Day” is a testament of creativity and experimentation. By taking full advantage of his time and seizing the opportunity he was able to create a life-changing piece of art.

Chance learned that creating value through technology could be achieved through giving away his music for free.

That is the beauty of creativity, you will always learn from your creative effort.

Chance did an interview with Fast Company as he discussed his independence and not having to worry about selling records and if this is “theoretically” an advantage.

Absolutely. Me being independent is about me being, you know, independent.

It’s about me being free to do whatever I want and create in an open space without walls or deadlines.

There are a lot of people who feel like they have artistic freedom in their [record] deals, but for me, the best way to [distribute] my product is the way I’ve been doing it so far.

The advantage that Chance The Rapper has created is that his fans know that they will always be able to access to his music without spending a penny. This understanding allows him to reach more people and develop a larger fan base.

This tactic makes it easier for people share his music and it creates a conversation among everyone because of its unconventionality.

Not charging for music also increases his reach and credibility as an artist. He puts the focus back on his music and it also offers the opportunity to deeper define himself to his fan base.

2. Get To Know Your Audience

As an artist, once you figure out who are, its time to focus on your audience and how you can interact with them. It’s important to answer questions, such as;

“What content format does my audience consume the most?

Video or Audio? Both?

How can I strategically position myself to gain traction?”

For example, how does Chance The Rapper distribute his music? How does Chance reach out and touch the fans?

Chance The Rapper operates like a politician — keeping it in the family his father who served under President Obama — pushed his son to promote his “10 Day” mixtape with a grass-roots marketing campaign.

Something reminiscent of a local of city-hall member running for mayor of a city. He posted flyers around Chicago and personally gave out his CDs to people out of his backpack. Giving people the opportunity to reach out, touch and speak with the artist.

This type of personal connection can go a long way when building a local fan base. As an artist, you can’t have long-term success without loyalty. A loyal fan base will support you repeatedly versus receiving a one-off album sale.

The goal is to build a following where people will keep coming back for more.

3. Embrace The Art Of Storytelling

For any artist or content creator — your story is what makes you valuable. It adds authenticity to your brand and lets people know who you are. Storytelling is a great way to connect with fans and invite people to join you on your journey.

One key aspect of building a brand is the art of storytelling.

People are often inspired by growth and situations that they can relate to as an individual or group.

People are drawn to music where they can embrace the artist as a person rather than a celebrity. The key is to express growth, implement stories and speak about things that resonate.

Never be afraid to be you, that is your value as an artist. Being authentic will help you keep your core fan base engaged. They will continually offer their support.

No matter how successful Chance The Rapper becomes, to his core fan base he will always be Lil Chano from 79th. There’s beauty in that situation.

If you check out his Instagram you can see him playing with his daughter and showing his true colors. As artists, you can’t always be in the spotlight. So it’s essential to provide that transparency.

That genuine authenticity provides good energy and helps to build your brand.

4. Connect With Your Supporters

Social media is a great way to grow a fan base. Facebook and Twitter can be used as tools to help you connect with your supporters. This can be a means to gather feedback, distribute new music or to gather insights to see what type of content your fans like to share.

You can also checkout popular venues in different cities and see what type of collaborations your fans would like to hear next. The beauty of connecting with your supporters is that they will always offer an opinion and suggestions.

Chance The Rapper has done a great job at connecting with his core fan base. He has continued to tap into his local Chicago youth market after releasing his “10 Day” mixtape, by initiating his “Save Money School Days” campaign.

Along with his manager, Pat Corcoran, they visited schools around the Chicago area selling discounted tickets to shows and participated in meet-and-greets with students, faculty and fans alike.

5. Rally All Your Resources

As content creators — we are never without resources. With social media, there’s always an opportunity to connect and network. What separates a lot of artists from the rest of the pack is their ability to capitalize off of opportunities, reach new people and convert listeners into fans.

Fashion has always been an important asset for artists because of the psychological connection it can build between artists and their fan base. When fans look at merchandise they are reminded of a memory, an experience or even your music at its basic level.

It’s also a great marketing tool. For Chance The Rapper he has been able to build his clothing brand right along side his music career. For those who can pull it off, this can be a very lucrative endeavor.

Chance has offered everything from Styrofoam cups to socks and the ever popular “Chance3” hats. All these offerings give fans an opportunity to connect with your brand.

“A big part of music is being able to really show your fandom and have it in places other than just in your ears. I like to do things that are unconventional.”

— Chance The Rapper with Fast Company.

To keep the ball rolling with his project “Coloring Book”. Chance The Rapper introduced a full line of custom merchandise on his website for the release of the aibum.

The marketing strategy was genius because it accomplished a number of goals:

(1) It drove fans to his website.

(2) It allowed core fans to deepen their connection with his brand.

(3) The custom merchandise acted as a form of free marketing.

6. Team Up With Different Artists & Creatives

Being a content creator is about — much more — than fame, notoriety and individual accolades. Collaborative creativity can create strong bonds and push art to higher levels. Building a team of creatives around you can be beneficial for all parties involved.

Brand associations create conversations, builds fan bases and develop relationships.

For example, Kanye West is featured on the very first track of “Coloring Book”. This is a conversation starter for Chance’s fan base, as well as Kanye’s. Both are artists from Chicago so it creates an industry wide discussion about the two artists.

The dynamic at play is that — if — Kanye West’s fan base enjoys the track they’ll keep listening and hopefully Chance gains new fans in the process. The same tactic is repeated by featuring 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne on the second track.

Through creative collaboration, they all will help to promote Chance’s album and leverage their influence with their own fan bases.

As an artist, doing features also has the same effect. Being featured on Kanye’s “The Life of Pablo” may have been the first time that some fans have heard of Chance The Rapper. The “Ultra Light Beam” feature could have converted a number of fans and urged them to join his following.

As an artist, with every feature you are being heard and your fan base is growing.

7. Create A Movement

Organically and strategically, there are a number of ways to achieve this rule. Chance The Rapper has repeatedly created movements and embraced movements in a number of ways. By following in the footsteps of his father who was a campaign manager under President Obama.

He has continuously been successful with his grass-roots marketing campaigns. This time around he employed the services of his fans through creative collaborations.

For the release of “Coloring Book”, Chance The Rapper created a poster campaign where he charged $20 for a three-pack of posters and asked his fans to share their artwork on social media.

Adding to another dimension of fan inclusiveness and free marketing.

Chance isn’t shy about sharing his success with others and advises other musicians to embrace their independence. He encourages all to join in on the journey that technology has afforded us all. It’s very much a non-traditional approach, but not impossible.

In an interview with Complex, he says,

“In order for me to continue to thrive, I need more artists to do it themselves.

I don’t mean do it by yourself, like literally, like, ‘I’m doing everything.’

You can bring on your friends and professionals that you know and build a business where you’re the upper management.

Where you’re the creative, and you are the last decision maker and you don’t ever have to feel compromised.”

Chance The Rapper is addressing the highest needs in the highest order. There is potential in the music industry for content creators to grow as DIY musicians.

In order for — all — to thrive, there needs to be a — new — norm.

Patience is a virtue and self worth is everything.

In conclusion, ‘7 Rules To Growing A Fan Base Like Chance The Rapper’ include:

  • Figure Out Who YOU Are
  • Get To Know Your Audience
  • Embrace The Art Of Storytelling
  • Connect With Your Supporters
  • Rally All Your Resources
  • Team Up With Different Artists & Creatives
  • Create A Movement

If you’re interested in learning more or joining the conversation feel free to sign up for our monthly Newsletter, join our Facebook group. You can also follow me on Twitter!

Written by

Entrepreneur based in Minneapolis, MN. I write about Music, Inspiration, Economics & Business. Website: & Newsletter:

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